September 01, 2009

the Importance of Standards

Originally posted on on 12/10/08.

The Importance of Standards

by FK9

Well, Final Resolution is in the books. And I’m sure the other columnists here will have no shortage of opinions on the PPV itself, but the province of this column is the Knockouts.

In my first column I criticized the Awesome Kong/Christy Hemme title bout for being a huge mismatch that would expose Christy’s weaknesses as an in ring performer and be damaging to Kong’s credibility if booked to be too competitive.

I daresay I wasn’t far off.

By now I’ve read several reports of this PPV and most people seem to have been rather complimentary of the Knockouts title match. One reviewer who seemed pleasantly surprised described it as solid. Another called it pretty good.

Forgive me for sounding snobbish, but why is that acceptable? Maybe I’ve been spoiled by a year’s worth of Gail Kim, Awesome Kong & Taylor Wilde. Maybe I’m asking for too much, but I expect a Knockouts title match to deliver more than that -- especially one on Final Resolution.

This was the pay per view anniversary of Gail Kim’s epic title defense against Awesome Kong, probably the best Knockouts match in TNA history to date. Gail, the defending champion and the best the division had to offer against Kong, the unstoppable force, who had demolished Gail in their first encounter on iMPACT and left her a beaten pile of meat at Turning Point.

Their first one-on-one PPV bout had been excellent and few expected them to be able to top it. But top it they did.

Granted, some of that came from the drama of the well crafted rivalry that had developed between the two and the excitement of Gail’s upset victory, but I’m honestly not joking when I say I would put that bout on my list of top TNA matches of the year -- male or female. It was that memorable.

I’m sorry, but as a follow up to that match “solid” and “pretty good” simply doesn’t cut it. And I’m just not interested in seeing an improving worker get a hot shotted title push when she hasn’t proven herself yet or been properly built up as a credible performer.

I’ll never be Christy Hemme’s biggest fan, but I’m a fair person so I’ll give credit where credit’s due. She didn’t embarrass herself. She gave good effort and put in an admirable performance given her current skill level. In fact, I’ll go one better – that was probably Christy’s best match to date. But that doesn‘t mean it wasn’t without problems.

Awesome Kong’s enormous size and strength is her greatest asset, but it can also be a hindrance. She’s so huge and so powerful it pretty much demands that she be booked a certain way, which makes her a bit less versatile than someone like Taylor Wilde. For example, Taylor can (and has) have a strong match with Velvet Sky, whereas Kong vs. Velvet would be a total squash on general principles.

Not that this is a bad thing, mind you. But Kong’s wrestling style doesn’t always lend itself to really strong, believably competitive matches unless she has the right chemistry with her opponent and her opponent has the athleticism to match her.

Kong can have great matches with Taylor Wilde and (provided she ditched the Muslim garb first) Raisha Saeed. She can have very good matches with Roxxi and ODB.

But when she’s in the ring with Christy Hemme, when she’s selling for Christy’s offence, there’s just something about it that doesn’t look realistic. Watching it, I’m suddenly very aware of the fact that I’m watching a fight in which the outcome has been predetermined by a writer backstage. I’m sorry, but I just don’t see the chemistry between these two and I never have.

I suppose I have been spoiled a bit. And maybe the first year of the Knockouts division was as good as it was ever going to get, but I don’t care. For a Final Resolution Knockouts championship match, I say pretty good is not good enough.

Thankfully, the other women’s match on this PPV was one I can be more upbeat about.

When ODB challenged Sharmell to a match a few weeks ago, I thought they were joking. After all, Sharmell isn’t a wrestler. Putting her in a one-on-one match would be a fiasco. That was the last thing I wanted to see and I don’t think I was alone in that assessment.

As luck would have it, either the TNA writers came to their senses or they never had any intention of making Sharmell wrestle in the first place. Taylor, Roxxi and the Beautiful People were soon added to the mix, making this a match I could actually look forward to.

In another smart move, they didn’t cheat it by trying to make Sharmell appear as if she could wrestle without her actually wrestling, a la Pacman Jones, which was another thing I was worried about. Sharmell played to her strengths and allowed her partners and opponents to play to theirs. She let the others carry the action and effectively sold her mutual enmity with ODB by NOT getting physically involved. When ODB was down she went for a cheap pin attempt and when ODB showed signs of life she ran for the hills, keeping her heel heat, but at the same time not going over any of the wrestlers.

I’m not saying it was a four star classic. I’m not saying it was as good as the 6 woman tags from Slammiversary and Hard Justice. But if Sharmell had to be in this match then she was utilized exactly the way she should’ve been and that’s something.

Something else I really enjoyed about this match was the way Taylor and Roxxi worked together. As I watched them hit the rapid fire tags, working Angelina’s arm, I remembered that they used the same strategy on Raisha Saeed at Turning Point a month before and something occurred to me.

For the last year or so we’ve been treated to the heel tandem of the Beautiful People, but something they’ve been missing is a babyface tandem counterpart. For a time there was the very enjoyable pairing of Gail Kim & ODB, but that’s gone now.

And even though Taylor and Roxxi’s feud with Awesome Kong was cut short, it’s nice to see that it hasn’t been completely forgotten in the sense that the two of them still seem to be buddies as far as working as a unit or appearing backstage together. Or as a potential duo to oppose the Beautiful People from time to time.

So, if we’re talking about the proper booking and utilization of talent in the two Knockout matches on the Final Resolution card, in my opinion, the 6 woman tag was a success. The title match unfortunately was not. You may disagree with that, but I hold the Knockouts division to very high standards. These women set the bar high last year and it shouldn’t be lowered in order to accommodate something that’s not as good as it could be or should be. That’s how Knockouts become Divas.

To high standards! Cheers!

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